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Aye, Aye, Skipper

February 11, 2020

Australian butterflies are divided into six families. Some of these families have members which are familiar to most people, for example the Common Brown is of the Nymph family, the Cabbage White is a White and any of the swallowtails are of course of the Swallowtail family. One of the lesser known families is Hesperiidae, commonly known as the Skippers. The appellation comes from the tendency for this group of butterflies to dart and skip low over the ground when in flight. Pictured is a member of the family, a Greenish Grass-dart (Ocybadistes walkeri).

Skippers are small butterflies usually brown and orange in colour. They can be distinguished from other butterflies by several key features. Like all butterflies they have clubs on the ends of their antennae but in the case of Skippers the club is hooked, like a crochet needle (see photo above).

Unlike most other butterflies that hold their wings vertical when at rest, the skipper when at rest holds its back pair of wings horizontal and its front pair of wings at an angle to the vertical (pictured below). As a kid its stance reminded me of an F-111 (although the purists among you will tell me that the aircraft has its front wings horizontal and its tail ‘wings’ at an angle).

Skippers are key pollinators of flowering plants, therefore are good to have in your veggie patch. Their sensitivity to toxins and pesticides makes them important environmental indicators.

Unlike the adage about cooks and broth, lots of skippers are good.

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